Cilla The Musical – Review – Hull New Theatre
Cilla The Musical – Review
Hull New Theatre, September 2018
by Rachel Howard
No matter what age you are, Cilla Black will mean something to you. Whether you’re a child of the 60s, who worshipped at the door of Liverpool’s Cavern Club; or growing up in the 80s and 90s, spending Saturday nights in front of the TV watching Blind Date. Either way, there won’t be many people that aren’t familiar with the national treasure who we sadly lost in 2015.
Her journey to stardom is a well known one, and was brought to a whole new generation back in 2014 with the three-part ITV series, Cilla, starring Sheridan Smith. The show proved to be such a success that soon after the decision was made to turn it into a stage show – directed by Bill Kenwright and produced with Cilla’s full support.
And so that brings us to the opening night of the musical’s latest run, at Hull New Theatre. The crowd of mixed aged groups, men, women and children reflects Cilla’s popularity and enduring appeal. What follows is the story of Cilla’s rise to fame, from typing-pool girl in Liverpool to singing superstar. And what makes this story all the more special is the journey she goes on with her beloved Bobby Willis.
Bringing both stories to life is a cast headed up by Kara Lily Hayworth. It’s a long time since I’ve seen someone so perfectly cast in a lead role. There isn’t a hint of cheesy impersonation here – Hayworth embodies the spirit and soul of Cilla. The stage presence, mannerisms and accent are spot on, but the real star of the show is the voice. Just like Cilla, Kara belts out the tunes with power, emotion and personality. All the classics are there: ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, ‘Alfie’ and ‘You’re My World’ to name just a few.
Alexander Patmore plays Bobby, the man who loyally stood by Cilla from the very beginning of her journey and later became her husband – forming one of the strongest and longest-lasting relationships in UK showbiz history. Their mutual adoration was clear for all to see, and Patmore and Hayworth skilfully bring this chemistry to the stage, allowing the audience a peek into their world behind the stage and recording studios.
As she embarked upon her road to stardom, a guiding light in Cilla’s world was music entrepreneur and manager Brian Epstein, a role played superbly by Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street and The Bill). No stranger to playing Epstein, Lancel confidently portrays the often troubled Beatles’ manager who took Cilla, and Bobby, under his wing and enabled her to realise her dreams of becoming a star, even crossing the pond and having a go at breaking the tricky American market. Some of the show’s most emotional scenes are centred around the death of Brian Epstein, and the effect it would have on the rest of Cilla’s career. He was instrumental in encouraging her to break into TV, forging a whole new career path and reinventing herself as prime-time TV’s golden girl – and bonafide national treasure.
The story of Cilla’s life is glamorous enough, but special mention must be given to Set and Costume Designer Gary McCann, who transports the audience to the swinging Sixties via a cast clad in colourful mini skirts, knee-high boots and bell bottoms. The set is a clever installation combining scenes including the Cavern Club, Abbey Road Studios and The Ed Sullivan Show.
To add to the visuals, the live music, performed by ‘The Beatles’, ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’ and ‘The Big Three’ fills the auditorium with the sounds of the era, forcing the audience onto their feet and into the aisles by the finale.
This is a show full of heart – the story of a Liverpool lass and the two loves of her life – music and Bobby. If you fancy seeing a production that provides a ‘lorra lorra’ laughs and love, not to mention some outstanding musical numbers, catch the show while you can.